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General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read the 10th.]

Head-Quarters, Trenton Falls, 9th December, 1776.

SIR: I did myself the honour of writing to you yesterday, and informing you that I had removed the troops to this side of the Delaware soon after the enemy made their appearance, and their van entered just as our rear-guard quilted. We had removed all our stores, except a few boards. From the best information, they are in two bodies, one at and near Trenton, the other some miles higher up, and inclining towards Delaware; but whether with intent to cross there, or throw themselves between General Lee and me, is yet uncertain.

I have this morning detached Lord Stirling, with his brigade, to take post at the different landing-places, and prevent


them from stealing a march upon us from above; for I am informed if they cross at Coriel' s Ferry, or thereabout, they are as near to Philadelphia as we are here.

From several accounts I am led to think that the enemy are bringing boats with them. If so, it will be impossible for our small force to give them any considerable opposition in the passage of the river; indeed, they make a feint at one place, and by a sudden removal carry their boats higher or lower, before we can bring our cannon to play upon them.

Under these circumstances, the security of Philadelphia should be our next object. From my own remembrance, but more from information, (for I never viewed the ground,) I should think that a communication of lines and redoubts might soon be formed from the Delaware to the Schuylkill, on the north entrance of the city; the lines to begin on the Schuylkill side, about the heights of Springatsbury, and run eastward to Delaware, upon the most advantageous and commanding grounds. If something of this kind is not done, the enemy might, in case any misfortune should befall us, inarch directly in and take possession. We have ever found that lines, however slight, are very formidable to them. They would at least give a check till people could recover of the fright and consternation that naturally attends the first appearance of an enemy. In the mean time, every step should be taken to collect force, not only from Pennsylvania, but from the most neighbourly States. If we keep the enemy from entering Philadelphia, and keep the communication by water open for supplies, we may yet make a stand, if the country will come to our assistance till our new levies can be collected.

If the measure of fortifying the city should be adopted, some skillful person should immediately view the grounds, and begin to trace out the lines and works. I am informed there is a French Engineer of eminence in Philadelphia at this time. If so, he will be the most proper.

I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient servant,


P˙ S. I have just received the enclosed from General Heath. General Mifflin is this moment come up, and tells me that all the military stores yet remain in Philadelphia. This makes the immediate fortifying of the city so necessary, that I have desired General Mifflin to return to take charge of the stores, and have ordered Major-General Putnam immediately down to superintend the works, and give the necessary directions. G˙ W.